Air Force base in Nevada goes solar with 15-megawatt array


Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada, the land of lots of sun and plenty of land, will be home to a 70,000 solar-panel installation which, at 15 megawatts, will be the largest in North America.The U.S. Air Force on Tuesday said Nellis and SunPower have finished the first phase of the project, which will save the base $1 million a year and roughly $83,000 a month, when fully commissioned.

(Credit: U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Nadine Y. Barclay)The project, started in July of this year, will bring the final two-thirds of the panels online in the next two months.The SunPower solar panels will be installed on 140 acres of Nellis Air Force base land and use trackers that move the mounted panels to follow the sun during the course of the day. The trackers improve output by 30 percent. The 15-megawatt installation will be one of the biggest solar farms in the world. The Bavaria Solar Park in Germany is a 10-megawatt plant, and the Serpa Power Plant in Portugal is 11 megawatts.But those solar parks act as power plants, whereas the Nellis installation will power only the base, which employs between 12,000 and 14,000 people, according to a representative. By comparison, Hewlett-Packard installed a relatively large corporate solar array in its San Diego facility last month that can generate 1 megawatt of electricity.Under the contract, the base will pay a less expensive rate for electricity over the life of the panels, which typically have a 25-year warranty.